Chiara and I went to comedian Michael Mcintyre in the basement of the Leicester Square Theatre. McIntyre is very successful: his stand-up DVD Michael McIntyre: Hello Wembley, released last year, is the fastest selling stand-up DVD ever. During that tour, he performed live to half a million people.
Wednesday night he performed for about 40 of us.
We got tickets for the show thanks to a timely heads-up on Twitter. I’m not sure we’d be paying whatever he charges when he performs his next sold out arena tour, but I was happy to spring the 6 quid for the opportunity to see such a successful comedian try out some new material.
The opener was John Gordillo. His intelligent wit and quirky political views were great – e.g. the Geordie perpetual motion vomiting. But it was also clear that his material wasn’t that polished – or perhaps he was a little nervous about opening for Michael McIntyre.
McIntyre came out next. He immediately addressed the question on everyone’s mind: what is that eggy odour? With the help of an industrial can of air freshener he masked the stink, riffing all the while. He then got down to the business of testing out some material.
As might be expected, the show was uneven. This was a big part of the thrill for me. Because McIntyre is such a successful comedian I already felt savvy for being there to see the unadvertised ‘secret’ show. The giddy excitement of being involved in the crafting of his material (albeit as a ‘test audience’) made me side with him from the start, willing the jokes to work. So I rolled with the bits – whether or not they resulted in big laughs, little chuckles or a polite grimace. More often than not, it was little chuckles. But there were some guffaws as well.
His confidence of course helped – when a joke fell flat (or even at one point when I thought it didn’t) he unceremoniously judged it a failure and moved on. There were even a few Hail Mary attempts at jokes he suspected would flop (the already-dated John Terry bit springs to mind).
All in all, well worth it – both for the chance to see a stadium comedian in an intimate (if eggy-smelling) space, and to glimpse that same comedian’s process as he puts together a show that will very soon be a ridiculously huge success.